Posts Tagged ‘alone’

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11/13/2015

Looking back, I think I’ve always been a loner. As far back as nursery school, I remember making friends being a difficult endeavor. I’m not entirely sure from where it arose, but insecurity and a lack of confidence has been part of my character makeup for as long as I can recollect. My memories vividly recount my 4-year-old self, a nervous, fidgety little boy who didn’t know what to do to make friends, awkwardly and pathetically shuffling over to anyone I wanted to play with and, instead of just playing, meekly asking, “Are you my friend?” Most of the time, the answer was a simple and curt “No.” These were the years kids started to forge friendships that lasted lifetimes; for me, they were simply the beginning of being on the outside for the rest of my life.

I had two very close friends when I reached kindergarten, both of whom lived within walking distance of my house. One was a year older than I, but lived close enough that I could walk to his house, or he to mine, at any time and play outside or go in to play video games (he had the only Nintendo Entertainment System on the block), despite not being in classes together. The other was actually in my kindergarten class, and I remember it being awesome. We got along great and both seemed poised to be lifelong friendships.

And then they both moved.

The older friend simply moved to another part of town, but it was a school change, and the removal of our proximity spelled instant doom. My other friend from kindergarten moved to Buffalo, NY. The distance between grew from less a quarter mile to 360 miles before summer was over, and to me, it felt like a bomb had been dropped on my fun. I never made friends like that again.

I meandered through school, making some friends here and there, but none of them were actual best friends. Sure, we sat together in class, made jokes, and sometimes got together outside of school. But it wasn’t the same as what I saw others do. No one was ever my “blood brother” and no one would ever stick up for me or have my back. Qualities I saw in other friend groups, where one always backed up the other, would go out of his or her way to cheer them up, or just simply want to be with them, were not present in any of my relationships.

For all of this, I am under no illusions that the shortcomings aren’t my own. I don’t blame others for this characteristic lack of anything. I soon found myself looking for friends outside of school, and I did in fact make one. He was 3 years my senior, but we hit it off. Again, we didn’t go to school together, so we spent a lot of time on the phone, and would get together over the weekends to play music. It was fun.

And then he went off to college in New York. We stayed in touch via email, and whenever he came home we would hang out, drink coffee, watch tv, play epic matches of Madden NFL or NHL on my Playstation, and have dinner. But he lived full-time in NY, so the visits were few and far between. Still, I considered him my best friend for many years.

In later high school years, I formed bands with various musicians and became good friends with one guitar player. As per my usual fortune, he lived on the other side of the county, and he was older than I was, but he had a car and we got together every week to jam. When his car died, my mother, in her absolutely unending generosity to almost any endeavor I pursued, agreed to drive out to his house across town every Sunday to pick him up and take him home. He was always so grateful, and it was never a burden.

As time went on, the “band” sort of drifted apart and I lost touch with him. I regret it to this day. I also regret what I came to find out many years later, that what I felt was a good friendship, a two-way street that we both enjoyed was actually only good in my eyes. It was admitted to me that I had made him feel a burden, like a second-class person. It cut me deeply, not because of insult, but because it was absolutely not at all what I had intended or felt to express. It was also not the first time in my life I had been told something like that, although it was the first time the statement had come from someone I had considered a friend. And a close one at that. We have since made up and put that behind us, but we are not as close as we once were.

In this time, I met MB, and my life was forever changed for the better. She became my best friend and my everything, and she remains that to this day. I am married to my best friend, and for that I am eternally grateful. Together we have created a family the likes of which I could never have dreamt. But while she is able to make friends at almost every turn, with her outgoing and cheerful personality, I continue to be aloof and closed off, not really knowing what to do or how to act, and therefore never really creating any new bonds with anyone.

In an ongoing theme, many years later, after being the best man at my wedding, the aforementioned friend who moved to NY for college met a girl. MB and I had had Eric already, and my friend brought his girlfriend home to Baltimore to meet us. It went well, I thought. We met at a Starbucks, as had become somewhat of a tradition, and we sat and talked for a good long time. Little did I know this was going to be the last time I ever saw him.

Not too terribly long after that, he proposed to her. When I proposed to MB, he and I shared a late night phone call, talking and reminiscing and sharing the moment, and that was when I extended him the request to be my best man. In the weeks leading up to my wedding, he even informally promised me a spot in his wedding party, should that day ever come. The speech he gave at the wedding was perfect.

When he proposed to his girl, the only message I received was a picture message of the ring, also sent to at least 20 other people. When I sent a congratulatory response, he never answered.

For another couple years, I tried texting him occasionally, hardly, if ever, getting any responses. Birthdays went by; I would send him birthday wishes every May, he would never send me any at all. In my stubbornness, I hung on a lot longer than I probably should have, but I finally decided I wasn’t going to try anymore if it wasn’t desired by the other party. As it turns out, a recent curious look on Facebook confirmed something I had suspected; he had gotten married months ago, without so much as an invitation or even a “Hey man, it happened.” Thus landed the final nail in the coffin of yet another “best friend” relationship that didn’t survive. While it had been such for many a year at this point, that was when I definitively and finally decided, after close to 20 years, it was over.

And so my existence goes. Even with professional colleagues, friendship with me seems struggled. Neighbors seem to enjoy my company, but never does it feel like I’m actually wanted around, but simply tolerated by forced proximity. My closest friends are either very far away, or live enough of a differing life that our paths simply never intersect, despite desperately wanting to catch up. The older I get, the harder it seems to forge any sort of relationship with anyone new that holds any deeper meaning. Everyone already has their lifelong friends, their blood siblings, their crew that they always know will be there, through thick and thin, whenever, wherever, however, whatever it takes. It’s something I wish I had, something for which I long, and something I will likely never have.

-A

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